Senator Orrin Hatch tells a Utah reporter that the so-called Ground Zero Mosque is a religious liberty issue, pure and simple. He says that as a Mormon he understands religious prejudice–that he once had to ask his good friend Teddy Kennedy to intervene in a controversy about a temple in Massachusetts.
It absolutely kills me that Harry Reid–a Jew who converted to Mormonism–needs to be schooled by this old right winger. Polling and sensitivities be damned; religious liberty is a fundamental, inalienable right–and as any serious student of American history knows, Madison and Jefferson were looking to protect religion just as much as the state.
It offends MY sensitivities to hear a billion and a half people being demonized; it embarrasses and shames me to hear American leaders counseling Muslims to be meek and conciliatory because of what the Wahhabists do in their name. I haven’t heard Abe Foxman telling me that I bear any responsibility for what Baruch Goldstein did in Judaism’s name.
I’ve tried not to get too caught up in the fringe stuff–the Koran burnings and Pamela Geller and Bryan Fischer. They are what they are. I just finished reading Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyon’s Right Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. “Rather than dismiss right-wing populists as paranoid or fanatical extremists,” they write, “we need to recognize these movements as both complex and dangerous: complex, because they speak to a combination of legitimate and selfish grievances; dangerous, because they channel people’s hopes and fears into misguided rebellions that only serve to heighten inequality and oppression.”
If you’re worried about the forces who are trying to steal your liberties, go after the people who do have an unequal share of power and wealth–not Jews and Muslims and blacks, not feminists and homosexuals, not ZOG and UN troops, not Mexicans, and for that matter, not white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Go after big business and the forces of entrenched privilege–what Eisenhower (“a dedicated conscious agent of the communist conspiracy,” as he was once described) called the Military Industrial Complex.
Glenn Beck and the Tea Party, we now know, are huge admirers of Martin Luther King. So I guess there is reason for hope. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial forty seven years ago, King taught us that America’s greatness lies in its ideal, as-yet-unrealized aspirations:
When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned….But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.
“You can’t change the heart through legislation,” King said in a different context. “But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees.”
When it comes to the Ground Zero Mosque, one need look no further than the First Amendment to the US Constitution.